Shanthakumaran Sreesanth insists that it was not him who was spanked for 35 runs off six overs when England batted first on Thursday, and a look at what happened subsequently suggests that there might be something in what he says.
Alastair Cook took 22 off the 18 balls he faced from Sreesanth in the morning as England took off in one-day style. But, after a thunderstorm intervened and stopped play for nearly three hours on the second day, we got to see a very different Sreesanth. In conditions that were helpful to swing bowling, Sreesanth found a perfect line and length. And troublesome accuracy for the batsmen — three LBW decisions off his bowling vouch for that. He was going for the stumps alright.
“I told myself that I would be myself,” Sreesanth said.
Not that he had told himself to be someone else earlier, but it seems that his first Test at Lord’s had overwhelmed him — a case of butterflies in the stomach, as Chandu Borde called it.
“Yes, that’s exactly what happened to me on the first day,” says Sreesanth. “I had been trying too hard, and I then told myself to just keep it simple.” Sreesanth, it seems, found inspiration in unlikely quarters — no, not Allan Donald, whose advise helped him wreck South Africa at the Wanderers late last year. Donald, now the England bowling coach, would not offer any more advice to Sreesanth.
“I was inspired by Dada… Sourav Ganguly,” says Sreesanth, revealing the name of his unwitting benefactor. “Yesterday, I was standing at fine leg, watching him bowl, and he was hitting the right areas. He got Cook out, he showed us the way.”
Ganguly had replaced Sreesanth from the Pavilion End and, against the run of play, got rid of Cook. “Earlier, it wasn’t me, I started bowling like Sreesanth from the seventh over, the first over of my second spell,” Sreesanth says. “The only thing I focussed on was hitting the right areas, making the ball move, trying to take it away from the batsmen,” he adds. “That’s exactly what I did today as well.”
But it were the deliveries at the wickets that gave him success. He removed Matt Prior (1), Chris Tremlett (0) and Monty Panesar (0), all LBW, as India rocked England, taking the last six wickets for 26 runs. Reason enough to celebrate, and Sreesanth did exactly that, going down to his knees, raising his arms and rocking his body.
“I enjoy every wicket I get,” he grins. “I bowl with passion and when these moments come, I am really delighted.”
Sreesanth does agree that he was helped by the conditions on Friday — and also the fact that he was bowling at lesser batsman.
“Yes, the conditions were different today, there was more moisture in the air,” he says. “But I think the main thing was that we both (he and Zaheer) hit the right areas and that made the difference.”
But there was nothing different about the way he felt after each wicket — only his joy rose in degrees. “When I got the first wicket, I was happy, when I took the second I was happier and finally, when I claimed the third, I was happiest!” he says, causing laughter. He grins happily and, again, is his own cheerful, sprightly self.